Both Ipanema and Leblon possess a vibrant nightlife that runs the gamut from laid-back, beloved sidewalk botequins to stylish bars, lounges, and a few nightclubs that attract an eternally fashionable crowd.
Garota de Ipanema (Rua Vinícius de Morais 49-A, Ipanema, 21/2523-3787) is the famous bar (originally called Bar do Veloso) where Vinícius de Morais and Tom Jobim were inspired to write “The Girl from Ipanema” after being mutually seduced by said girl (named Helô Pinheiro), who was passing by on her way to the beach. This event alone has made the bar somewhat of a ponto turístico, but since this is Ipanema and the chope is nice and cold, you could do a lot worse.
Cariocas love their chope, but Rio was essentially a monogamous one-brand draft town until Devassa (Rua Prudente de Moraes 416, Ipanema, 21/2522-0627) came along. This chain of bars (you’ll find outlets throughout the Zona Sul) not only had the guts to launch its own microbrewery but went further and named its various flavors of pilsner after classic Brazilian female biotypes; to wit, you can choose to kick back and relax in the company of a loira (blond), ruiva (redhead), negra, mulata, or india (which, beer-wise, translates into pale ale).
Jobi (Rua Ataulfo de Paiva 1166-B, Leblon, 21/2274-0547) is a classic Leblon address and a classic Carioca botequim, long frequented by artists, journalists and intellectuals (for this reason, passing pedestrians always shoot surreptitious glances at the outdoor tables in search of celebs). It’s perennially chosen as one of the city’s top bars due to the quality of its chope and flavorful petiscos—such as carne seca desfiada (shredded sun-dried beef), bolinhos de bacalhau, and velvety caldo de feijão—you’ll need to arrive early if you want a table.
Close by, on a shady side street, Bracarense (Rua José Linhares 85, Leblon, 21/2294-3549) is quite tiny, but as this laid-back neighborhood bar fills up with locals on the way home from work or the beach, the surrounding sidewalk quickly overflows with tables and stools. The petiscos here are justly celebrated: The house specialty, bolinho de aipim com camarão is a crisp ball of deep-fried pureed manioc filled with shrimp and creamy Catupiry cheese.
If you’re feeling beer weary, head to the Academia da Cachaça (Rua Conde da Bernadote 26, Loja G, Leblon, 21/2239-1542) to savor one of the city’s most famous caipirinhas. Lured by the hundreds of bottles of Brazil’s national liquor on display (and available for purchase), you might also want to sample some of the finer pingas (pinga means “drop”—slang for cachaça) on the menu, which rival the smoothest whiskies. Once you’ve whetted your appetite, dig into the famous feijoada or try the escondidinho, sun-dried beef hidden (escondido) beneath a creamy blanket of pureed manioc.
If you can’t afford to splurge on a room or even a meal at the Philippe Starck–designed Hotel Fasano, the next best thing is a cocktail in its supremely sophisticated bar/lounge, Berreto-Londra (Av. Vieira Souto 80, Ipanema, 21/3202-8000). Within minutes of this hotel’s opening in 2007, the bar had been anointed as the place to see and be seen in the Zona Sul. Trendiness aside, the warm brick walls, inviting leather sofas, elegant service, and a mean apple martini will have you mellow in no time.
Leblon’s best bar with a view is the always-stylish and very romantic Bar d’Hotel, on the second floor of the Hotel Marina All-Suites (Av. Delfim Moreira 696, Leblon, 21/2172-1100). Aside from its tasteful decor—a mix of modern design and antiques—the stunning views of Ipanema and Leblon beaches make it a favorite cocktail haunt for Carioca lovebirds (both gay and straight). The selection of cocktails is quite creative and includes caipiruby (a vodka caipirinha made with red fruits) and the royal (vodka, cointreau, lime, ginger, and pomegranate juice). Snacks range from mini lamb burgers with foie gras to delicious Nutella crêpes (no sharing allowed, or you’ll have to pay extra). If you want a coveted window table, reserve in advance.
Melt (Rua Rita Ludolf 47, Leblon, 21/2249-9309) is utterly Leblon: sleek, chic, and oh so fashionable, just like the toned and tanned crowd that turns up to work up a glow on the dance floor. The musical selection—ranging from samba-rock to hiphop—is courtesy of a rotating handful of DJs. Creative dishes are served in the candlelit downstairs lounge.